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Ban Ki-moon: U.N. inspectors in Syria should be allowed to finish chemical weapons investigation

- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 29, 2013

The United Nations inspectors looking into the suspected use of chemical weapons by the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad are expected to finish their work before the end of the week.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday that the inspectors are expected to complete their work on Friday and will report to him as soon as they leave the country on Saturday. He also said that the findings will also be shared with members of the U.N. Security Council — though he did not say when that would happen.

"I expressed my sincere wish that this investigation team should be allowed to continue their work," he told reporters in Vienna. "Diplomacy should be given a chance and peace given a chance."

"It is important that all differences of opinion should be solved through peaceful means and through dialogue," he said.

The Obama administration is considering taking military action against Syria without U.N. approval after the U.N. Security Council failed to reach the consensus on a British-led resolution on Syria that British Prime Minister David Cameron said condemned "the chemical weapons attack by Assad & authorizing necessary measures to protect citizens."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the move was premature and should be put on ice until the U.N. weapons inspectors report their findings. Russian officials also have said it suspects the alleged chemical weapons attack may have been carried out by opposition forces that hoped to spark a backlash against the Assad regime from the international community.

President Obama, meanwhile, has concluded that the opposition forces did not have the capability to carry out the attack and that the "Syrian government in fact carried these out."

"And if that's so, then there needs to be international consequences," Mr. Obama said in an interview with the PBS Newshour.

Mr. Cameron sounded a similar note earlier this week when he recalled the Parliament to consider a military response on Thursday.

Mr. Cameron has since been forced to change gears, thanks to opposition to the resolute and growing concerns about a possible military strike from members of the U.K. Parliament.

The Parliament is scheduled to debate Britain's response on Thursday, but now will not hold a vote on any military action until the U.N. inspectors finish their work on the ground.

Whatever the case, there are signs that a strike could be imminent.

The British Ministry of Defence said Thursday that it has deployed six RAF Typhoon jets to Cyprus.

"This is purely a prudent and precautionary measure to ensure the protection of U.K. interests and the defence of our Sovereign Base Areas at a time of heightened tension in the wider region," a defence spokesman said, Reuters reported.

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